Sending Off Sir Loin

While the solar eclipse is exciting news all over the U.S. today, we had some pretty big news of our own here on our little farm.

Our first steer went in for butchering today.

I remember the very first time we saw Sir Loin.  He was in a neighbor’s pasture, and we were told to go take a look at him.  Our neighbor wanted our heifer calf, Brisket, and wondered if we thought his young bull would be a fair trade.  Dave and I pulled over onto the grassy shoulder of our country road and sized up our neighbor’s offer.  The conversation went a little something like this:

Me:  He’s bigger than Brisket.
Dave:  He looks healthy.
Me:  He has a sweet face.
Dave:  I think he’s about 6 or 7 months old.
Me:  I hope he’s not aggressive.
Dave:  He’ll need to be castrated.
Thoughtful silence.
Me:  What do you think?
Dave:  Sure.

And that pretty much clinched the deal.  Later, after my favorite vet castrated the animal, I asked if everything looked good.  The vet replied with something like, “You guys made one heck of a trade”.  That was good news.

We immediately dubbed him Sir Loin and set about making his stay at Country Haven a healthy and enjoyable one.  He was even-tempered and relatively friendly.  He made buddies with our 4 month old heifer, Red Rose.  They became friends quickly and showed lots of bovine affection for one another.

Sir Loin was often the first to come running when I took a bucket of produce scraps or sweet potato vines to throw over the fence.  He loved his snacks, and would often follow and frolic alongside us on our evening walks around the pasture.  He was always willing to stop what he was doing for a fistful of red clover, and he intimidated more than one uninformed guest by intensely staring in their direction, snorting while not-so-patiently waiting for a fresh handout.

People have long asked if it would be difficult for me to eat Sir Loin, and I’ve always replied with a sound “nope”.  However, I will say that I will miss his presence.  He had a sweet disposition, and he was an asset to our little farm.  Having said that, we know that his purpose was to provide healthy, low-cost beef for our table.  Today was the day to begin the transition from field to freezer.

I am thankful for what I learned from Sir Loin, and I am thankful for the opportunity to experience growing our own beef.  As a special send-off, we were able to give him lots of his favorite treats over the weekend–mealy watermelons, cantaloupe rinds and corn husks, plus lots of fly-swatting and back-scratching to boot.  He sure did have it made while he was here.

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Lord, thank You for this new provision for our family.  Thank You for letting us have a hand in the process and for increasing our knowledge about growing good food.  May we share this beef in a way that brings You glory, showing the folks around us how big You love them! 

Flapjack

Last Sunday morning, I went out to take care of all of the young meat birds.  I had slept in until after 7:00 and was feeling quite refreshed.  The Cornish-X chicks are always so happy to see me, and they seemed even more eager to be fed this morning.  An extra 45 minutes of sleep for me meant a longer wait on breakfast for them.  They’re certainly fat enough already, so I knew they’d be fine.

I was wrong.

Apparently, a couple of the birds decided to attempt to make breakfast out of one of their young coopmates.  Now, keep in mind that these birds are out on fresh grass; they had plenty of green options to hold them off until their high-protein mash arrived.  Their impatience or self-centeredness–or whatever–made a pretty rough start for one little gal.

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This is Flapjack.  She’s looking pretty good right now, and we are thankful.  Last Sunday morning, though, she was a raw, bloody mess around her throat.  She had a one-inch flap of skin hanging, wide open, from her neck.  It was difficult to tell how bad her injuries were because of the blood, but I sprayed the wound with an aerosol bandage and separated her from the flock.  We will probably keep her separately for the duration of her stay here at Country Haven, which is only four more weeks.

This experience has made me glad that people aren’t chickens.  I mean, I can’t imagine living side-by-side with my fellow man and suddenly being ripped to shreds by someone else’s impatience or self-centeredness.  I mean, can you imagine what it would be like if people didn’t have the decency to just respect the folks around them even when they weren’t getting exactly what they wanted when they wanted it?  Can you truly imagine living in a world where people acted that much like animals?!

Yeah, so can I.

There are a lot of really good things about this life–plenty of green grass beneath our feet, so to speak.  It’s all a matter of focus.  We can choose to perpetuate the problems or to rise above and be part of the solutions.

Splitting and Stacking

It’s hard for me to believe that it’s August.  It seems like summer has just begun!  I usually mark August by days of harvesting, preparing and preserving bushels of produce.  Without that abundance so far this year, my seasonal clock is a little wonky.

Having said that, the lack of canning and freezing responsibilities allows us the opportunity to work ahead a little bit for cooler temperatures.  This morning, my son and I are rotating the remainder of last year’s firewood to the outsides of our big stacking area so that we can fill in the middle of the area with newly-split logs.  We will work our way from the oldest into the newest wood as the winter months grow colder.  My husband strategically places the hardwoods in the center stacks so that we have access to them when temperatures are traditionally the most frigid.

This weekend’s daytime highs are supposed to be in the 70s, so we are seizing the opportunity to split and stack to fill those inner rows while it’s relatively comfortable to do so.  Dave has an impending total hip replacement, so I know it will be a load off his mind to know that we have a full winter’s supply of heating fuel stacked and ready to burn.  I am comfortable with a variety of farm chores–using a chainsaw is not one of them.  Eeek.

So, I guess I can be thankful for the lull in kitchen responsibilities that allow me to be outside on such a beautiful day, doing something that I know will bless my husband to have done.  I daresay I will even have a little bit of time to work in my flower beds before the afternoon temperatures soar.

 

Life and Death on the Farm

Right now, we have fuzzy babies on the farm.  Not only is there Bitsy, the surprise that hatched in the hen coop a couple of weeks ago, but we also have 49 Cornish-x chicks and 10 turkey poults.  They are currently spending the cool nights in our garage.  My first task every morning is to feed and water the little ones.  It is a very gratifying job, because they are always completely thrilled to eat.  I can almost read see the gratitude in their fluffy little faces.

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This morning, I had the unfortunate task of disposing of a little one that died through the night.  Isaac noticed that it was puny the night before last, and we tried to nurse it back to health yesterday to no avail.  In the two weeks since the babies were delivered, this is the first one we’ve lost.  That’s a pretty good record so far; we hope it lasts.

After the garage babies are taken care of, I head to the barn to let Roscoe and the hens out for the day.  Bitsy now scratches out and about the pasture with her momma and two or three “aunties” that help keep her out of mischief.  (We hope it’s a her, but we don’t really know.)  This is also a good job for me, because these birds are always eager to get out and look for their breakfast.  We currently have a hen setting on a clutch of eggs, so this is a convenient time for me to check on her as well.  Chicken eggs take 21 days to hatch, and I think we’re a third of the way through that cycle.

While at the barn, I check any traps that we’ve set.  Currently, this consists of a mouse trap that is catching something every time I set it.  This makes me happy.  With nearby pastures, fields and woods full of rodent food, I have a really hard time sharing the grain I’ve bought with mice.  One momma mouse can give birth to 40 pups a year.  Since I am not interested in determining the gender of my trap’s victims, I count every catch as being worth 20 points.  This week, I’ve scored 80 points.  And it’s only Wednesday!

We’ve not had trouble with predators in the barn so far this summer, so we haven’t had the live trap baited for a couple of months.  However, in the semi-darkness of the dawn, I saw something scurry under the barn on my way out this morning.  It was bigger than a mouse, so methinks the trap must be set tonight.  This is one of my least favorite responsibilities.  I don’t mind the setting of or even the catching of, but the dealing with whatever we catch is blechyness times a million for me.  Fortunately, my son is getting pretty good with his .22 rifle.  I think he’s ready to take over this less-than-desirable farm chore.   He shot and killed a raccoon that our dogs treed last month.  I really appreciate his willingness to pitch in and help in this area.

There is always life and death to deal with on our little farm.  Not all of what we do is pleasant, but it all has its place and its purpose in our days.  Even the death of the little chick can serve as a reminder to be grateful for the 49 chicks which we hope to grow into food for ourselves and for others.  I cannot say that I rejoice in the death of the chick (although I do kinda rejoice in the deaths of the mice), but I am thankful for the lessons I can learn in its passing.

With trapping of the mice, I am reminded that vigilance is necessary.  If we are careless with what we’ve been given, those resources may be taken from us.  The gifts with which we have been blessed today are not guaranteed to bless us tomorrow.  We must do our part to be wise and worthy stewards of God’s provisions–even when what needs to be done is far from pleasant.

 

Surprise Baby

Last Monday evening, my oldest daughter came in from doing the barn chores with a surprise.  We had a new baby.  One that we didn’t know was coming.

I had been trying to get my hens to actually hatch a clutch of eggs for the better part of three years to no avail.  Either the hens would try to set on their eggs during one of our rooster-less seasons or the hens wouldn’t be in the mood to brood when we knew the eggs were being fertilized or the hens didn’t like the new fun, safe brooding area I made for them and revolted or the rooster wasn’t manning up to the challenge of doing the deed.  Whatever the reason, it was always a 100% failure, and both man and bird seemed a bit stressed out by my meddling.

So, I called it quits two months ago.

We now have a baby.

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One of our black Australorps sneakily laid her egg in a corner on the floor of the coop.  We never saw the egg to gather it because she was setting on it.  We just thought she was being anti-social or wanted to be in out of the almost-continual rain over the course of the chick’s three-week gestational period.  Completely devoid of any human intervention, this young momma hen hatched a perfect, fluffy chick.

I know there is a lesson in here for me somewhere.

Ladies and gentleman, I think it’s time for me to leave well enough alone.  (I think I just heard an “Amen!” from my husband.)

God’s totally got things under control.  He hears my heart.  He knows my strengths as well as my weaknesses, and He knows what is best.  My meddling really, really, really doesn’t help matters.  In fact, it might just stress people out.

Parched Corn No More

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Woo hoo!  These little guys are parched no more.  We got rain!!

After three weeks of nothing but a few sprinkles, our little farm got a healthy, nourishing dose of blessed rain yesterday!  We are so thankful!  Not only does that mean no more Amish watering system for a few days, but a natural rain is always more effective than a manmade one.

My always-logical husband pointed out that if we had been getting the rain other areas had been getting, yesterday’s rain amounts might have been overkill and sent us back into the too-much-water phase.  He’s probably right.

As it is, we got a good amount yesterday, and we are still feeling the gratitude.  Even the grass is already greener…and the weeds are already taller!

Now that the soil is nice and soft, let the weeding begin!

 

Dry as Dust

Our gardens are so dry.  In ten days’ time, they went from being washed out in places by torrential downpours to being dry, dry, dry as dust.  I’ve never seen conditions go from one extreme to the other so quickly.

Since we don’t have an ideal situation for drip irrigation, we are using what we affectionately call our Amish watering system–which pretty much equals the kids and me out watering the gardens by hand.  I am thankful for our Amish friend who could help me see the humor in this process by naming it something more interesting than “watering drudgery”.  He is the same friend who boasts to “English” folks that he and his wife have “six-and-one-half dozen children”.  After people pick their jaws up off the floor, he smiles and clarifies that he means six children plus half a dozen children–making twelve in all.  Certainly still a large family, but not quite so mind-boggling to the average joe.

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Anyway, we have a significant advantage over most of my Amish friends; we don’t have to hitch up the mule to pull all of the water down to where our largest gardens are.  We get to load up our old truck instead.  We fill about 15 buckets and put the water out via watering cans.  When that truckload is gone, we drive up to the house and fill the buckets again.  It takes about 6 truckloads of water to really soak our two big gardens.  We tend to shoot for three truckloads a day and then take a break for a day.  Throughout the process, we pray for rain.  I think we need to be more specific in our prayers, though, because the rain keeps missing us.  My brother’s garden, however, is staying well-watered.  (He’s always been everyone’s favorite.)

Today is our day off, and part of me is happy about that.  We get to go visit some family in their new home and water ourselves in their swimming pool.  The other part of me is aware that the temperatures are supposed to get pretty high, which will make the water we put out yesterday even less effective.  I may wind up putting some out tonight when the sun begins to set–just to soften the heat of the afternoon.  I am so thankful for good health and strong bodies that make these tasks possible.  I am also thankful for a deep and generous well that has never run dry–even during the driest of summers.

So, if you think of us tonight just before sunset, please join us in giving thanks for these good gifts.  And, while you’re at it, we sure would appreciate your prayers for a soaking, nourishing rain this week.